Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



An Eye For Animals

Photos and quotations by Jessie Cohen

Jessie Cohen loved her job, and it showed. From 1979 to 2009, she served as a National Zoo photographer. In those 30 years, she captured image after stunning image of everything from anteaters to zebras. Her death last year was a deep loss to the Zoo family.

“She was wonderful to work with,” said fellow Zoo photographer Mehgan Murphy. “She had a vast knowledge of animals in general and the Zoo population in particular.” Drawing on that vast knowledge—amply reinforced by creativity and persistence—Cohen produced a body of breathtaking work. This portfolio includes some of her favorite shots from a storied career.


"The cubs had been running around like crazy in the snow, and one started jumping all over its mom. It stopped for a moment, and I captured both of them looking straight at me." (Jessie Cohen/NZP)


Asian elephants
"As a young animal, Kandula makes a great subject—he is full of energy and mischeif." Asian elephants are intelligent and learn through exploration. (Jessie Cohen/NZP)


green iguana
"For animal portraits, I like to get eye-to-eye with them even if it means lying on my stomach or climbing a tree." This green iguana perches atop a branch in its enclosure in the Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center. (Jessie Cohen/NZP)


giant Pacific octopus
A giant Pacific octopus sticks itself to the glass of its enclosure at the Invertebrate Exhibit. (Jessie Cohen/NZP)


"An interesting thing about the orangutans at the Great Ape House is that they recognize people. When I arrive with my camera, some of them come right up to the glass to see me. Because they are so expressive, it's easy to see individual character and personalities in their faces." (Jessie Cohen/NZP)


black-necked swans
Black-necked swans go for a swim at the Zoo's Bird House. (Jessie Cohen/NZP)


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Smithsonian Zoogoer 39(1) 2010. Copyright 2010 Friends of the National Zoo. All rights reserved.